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Bad Guys: America's Most Wanted in Their Own Words Hardcover – June 13, 1996

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The 45 bad guys and 15 bad gals interviewed by Baker (Cops) are anomalous, he writes, because none of them denies guilt. They are also unusual because they claim they never became involved in violence unless it was forced on them. Most are robbers, drug dealers, pimps, smugglers, gamblers or the authors of white-collar scams. Without exception, all share "the inability to grow up," because for them "adult responsibility is unthinkable," Baker writes. Unfortunately, however, the details of most of their crimes, especially their complex financial machinations and their exploits in smuggling drugs, are exceedingly tedious, even to the dedicated true-crime buff. The only genuinely memorable passages appear in the chapter on life in prison; interviewees describe unrelieved tension, constant watchfulness and inescapable paranoia. After conducting these interviews, Baker suggests we view career criminals as neither societal vermin nor underprivileged victims.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Baker here assembles first-person accounts of petty criminals. Giving background information, then letting the criminals speak for themselves, he details their origins, their unlawful careers, and their lives in prison. Among those included are a stick-up artist, an armed robber, a car thief, a pimp, a check kiter, a scam artist, a hustler, and a crack user. Most of the bad guys emerge as not really bad but as just human beings who took a wrong turn and ended up in a spiral of self-defeat. But there is a sameness to the tales (and to the tone of voice) that prevents one from knowing them really well and from caring for them very much. Interesting for criminology collections but marginal for general collections.
-?Ben Harrison, East Orange P.L., N.J.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (June 13, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684810026
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684810027
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,563,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By buddyhead on September 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I realize that this collection of interviews wasn't designed as a whole that transcends the sum of its parts; however, more guidance of any kind was needed here. I'm not asking for a beautiful puzzle whose pieces fit together perfectly, but don't just give me a pile of pieces dumped on the floor carelessly. There was no flow to Bad Guys, and even the chapters don't do much to sort things out- everything is sort of clumped together under the heading of "CRIME," which is too huge a theme not to be subdivided. Creatively, very little was required of this author, and he could have spiced up what little original writing he actually added to this compilation.
Some of the tales are interesting, but the book plays like a series of quotes instead of a tapestry that tells something (incidentally, many of the quotes are quite funny or insightful). It was hard to sort out who was saying what, with almost no details provided about the speakers, who blended in seamlessly in absence of distinguishing characteristics. Not to mention that most of these career criminals had no shortage of offenses to talk about, to the point where there was no use in parsing out their stories into chapters organized by crime. As a result, you gain no more insight into the psychological profile of the murderer than you do of the card sharks.
It is galling how the (criminal) narrators feel they are resigned to their fates, and powerless to stop their lives of crime. Most often than not, it was boredom that drove them to their crimes. There is not a lot of enablement here, which is nice, but nor is there any penitence. There is a lot of self-righteousness on the part of the criminals, many of whom immersed themselves in their seedy worlds because it was easier than securing a lower-paying real job.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is a wonderful book! The words from the criminals is what we call "Right from the horse's mouth! Their words make your skin crawl!" A must read for crime story fans.
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